The Huli Shan Fortress (Húlǐ Shān Pàotái, 胡里山炮台) is a concrete defensive outpost on the south side of Xiamen, just across the water from the historically contentious Jinmen Islands.
Xiamen was one of the treaty ports established by the Treaty of Nanking that ended the First Opium War in 1842. Though the British troops that shelled and captured the city in 1841 left the city proper and set up diplomatic shop on the small island of Gulangyu—an early foreign concession that today is a quaint pedestrian-only tourist attraction—the city was understandably eager to establish more defensive capabilities. By the dawn of the 20th century, the Huli Shan Fortress had been completed.
The castle compound is massive, with secret tunnels, barracks for soldiers, offices, fortifications for repelling attacks, towering walls and watch towers. The highlight for visitors of today is the remaining enormous cannon (there were originally two; one for east and west defense). Built by a German munitions company, the two 14 m (46 ft) cannons, when viewed in tandem with the dozens of other, smaller artillery, must have been an intimidating sight.
Not quite intimidating enough, though, because in 1938 the invading Japanese took control of the city, and held it under their control until 1945. Following Japanese withdrawal, the Civil War resumed and escalated, and Xiamen saw considerable fighting. The Nationalist forces were able to retain control of the Jinmen Islands, and a standoff ensued between the two governments. The Huli Shan Fortress marked the line of Communist control, and became the staging site for Communist offensives against the Nationalist controlled archipelago, including the First and Second Taiwan Strait Crisis (the islands remain under Taiwanese control).
Today, the fortress is a fascinating look back to a time when imperial threats and Cold War fears were a harsh reality. The structure itself, coupled with the museum that details the local history, provides an interesting look back at a city that has played an important role in China's history.
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